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Why better dental hygiene is a matter of habit

I won’t list the innumerable irrational fears, absurd worries, and terrifying moments of what-if-ism I’ve experienced over six decades. It would take too long, and it’s probably not that interesting to anyone who hasn’t made a lifelong study of anxiety disorders. I will tell you about a time when I overcame a paralyzing fear of dentists, because if it’s not exactly fascinating, it’s truly instructive.

An extremely unpleasant experience with a dentist in my late teens explains why I waited until in my mid-twenties, newly employed and newly insured, to see one again.

An electric toothrush makes a great “family” gift, especially when it’s this handsome.

I got so lucky. First and most importantly, young Dr. J took seriously my fear, and did not mock it. Our plan, he said, would be for me to do as much as I could to lessen visits to the dentist. He suggested a routine of brushing and flossing twice daily, rinsing daily with mouthwash, not smoking, eating healthy foods, and coming in for check-ups.

While all that paid off, nothing bumped up my dental hygiene game as much as a switch—made about 25 years ago—to an electric toothbrush. Since then, check-ups and cleanings have been overwhelmingly a breeze, and I always get tops marks from the hygienist.

Last month, I began testing a Philips DiamondClean Smart Sonicare brush that was supplied to me. Here’s what I like about this model:

There are settings for cleaning, whitening, and tongue care, (with a special head that comes with the set). Because they’re timed, I don’t cheat.

Separate shields and cover stand for heads reduce bacterial spread. A rinsing glass sits in a charging base, and there’s a convenient travel case.

A purple light at the base of the brush alerts users if they’re pushing too hard on the brush, which can damage gums.

A related app tracks oral hygiene habits. My experience with Fitbit and WW has taught me how helpful that feedback can be in reinforcing positive behaviors (more on that soon). It also lets me know when it’s time to replace a brush head, which I can order on the spot. Still testing this.

Not only does a beautiful lunar blue finish accented with gold and glass turn a practical tool into something pretty, it makes my life healthier and happier.* That, I think, is really great design.

*I am so grateful to Dr. J, and like him a lot, but I’m still glad to see him less, rather than more often, and for shorter periods.

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